It wasn't pain, really, not the kind that she had known in life, at least. It was a sensation she couldn't quite name, a tearing from inside, grief and euphoria and unbearable sweetness all mixed into one as years of numbness suddenly melted away. When she opened her eyes again, she was no longer inside the palace, but standing on a beach. It was dawn and the sun was rising, a ruby fireball over crystal blue water stretching all the way to the horizon. This must be an ocean, she supposed, though she had never seen one, for there were no oceans in Oz. A hand on her shoulder made her jump a little, but the fear didn't last long in the air of safety that seemed to blow off the water with every breeze.
She turned slowly, willing herself to remain calm. Fiyero was standing behind her, strong and sure and beautiful as ever. She turned toward him and he took her by the shoulders. She flinched slightly at his touch, surprised by the warmth of his hands.
"Fiyero…how?" Elphaba trailed off and shrugged, torn. She wanted desperately to believe it, and yet if she did it would go against everything she'd ever believed in life.
"Nevermind," he whispered, his breath warm on her cheek, "You'll see soon enough."
She nodded, then turned back toward the water. The sun was higher now, turning the sky a light purple, shot through with veins of pink and orange.
Fiyero walked over and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
"It's a new beginning."
Elphaba wrenched out of his grasp and turned back to face him.
"Is it? For them? Will things be all right now?"
Fiyero shook his head and pulled her back against him.
"No one can say."
"So then-then it was all a waste?" she asked, refusing to believe her own words.
"I didn't say that. Things will be different now, that's the sure thing. Whether it's for the better…no one can say for a long time...perhaps never."
Elphaba sighed, then nodded slowly. Fiyero leaned in and kissed her, and suddenly the reality of it all came crashing down around her. He was dead, had been for months and yet he was here again, real as ever. And the others…they were lost to her, at least for the moment. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder, giving in to the tears she'd been fighting for most of her life. Fiyero ran his hands over her back in slow circles but didn't say anything. The tears subsided after a few minutes, and she realized with a slight shock that it hadn't hurt. Fiyero kissed her again, then took her hand and led her toward the water.
Elphaba nodded, surprised to find that she was no longer afraid.
As the water lapped gently around their ankles, the sun reached its full height overhead, turning the sky a perfect, clear blue like a huge mirror reflecting the water. Fiyero met her gaze and smiled.
"Elphie…it's here. Forever is here."
Author's Note: Okay I'm in total shock now. It's really, really over.
I know a lot of you are going to be upset about the fact that I didn't give you a more complete ending, but it just didn't feel appropriate for this story. I'm leaving it up to you to decide what happened. So make this ending what you want.
Thanks for everything, all of you. One last review please?